If international racing is the wave of the future, two of its major forces took a major step in the right direction this week as Breeders Cup Limited and the Hong Kong Jockey Club announced a new partnership.
The deal calls for the HKJC Champions Mile April 29 to become the first foreign qualifying race for a Breeders' Cup World Championship event, and for Hong Kong to allow wagering on the Breeders' Cup World Championship events this year for the first time.
The two parties also will co-fund a $1 million bonus for any horse winning the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile and the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile in the same year -- a kind of "high flying bonus." There also are cross-marketing and promotional aspects to the plan.
"Extending the Breeders' Cup Challenge to some of the top international races is a natural development," said Bill Farish, Breeders' Cup chairman.
"Racing's future lies in its globalization," added Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, chief executive officer of the HKJC, "and it is vital that we promote it as a sport that transcends local borders. .... It also is very important to establish links with million-dollar prize-money incentives between some of the world's great Mile races -- two of which are highlights at the end of the season world championships in North America and Hong Kong."
Attempts to provide an international flavor for horse racing go back centuries. Recent efforts range from an effort by Arlington International Racecourse owner Richard Duchossois to link his International Festival of Racing with the Arc d'Triomphe weekend races at Longchamp in Paris to a now-dormant World Series Racing Championship stretching from Dubai to Europe, the United States, Japan and Hong Kong.
Kentucky Derby preps
In a slow weekend for the 3-year-olds:
-- Twilight Meteor came from mid-pack to challenge for the lead in the deep stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Hallandale Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park and was just along in time to win by a 1/2 length over Sedgefield. Le Dauphin finished third and the favorite, Soldier's Dancer, made a belated run to take fourth. Twilight Meteor, an Ontario-bred colt by Smart Strike, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.76 with Edgar Prado up for trainer Todd Pletcher.
In potential Kentucky Oaks preps:
-- Our Dancing Babe dropped to last in a field of 11 3-year-old fillies after the first half-mile of Saturday's $50,000 Valdale Stakes at Turfway Park. But, with Alonso Quinonez at the controls, the Kentucky-bred Belong to Me filly angled out into the second turn four-wide, closed quickly into the stretch and won by 2 1/4 lengths. Bavarian Belle finished second and Miss A. Bomb was third. Our Dancing Babe ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.98. "The first time we stretched her out," said winning trainer Daniel Smithwick Jr., "we told the jockey to just let her do her thing and when they turned down the backside, she dropped herself back next to last. She did the same thing today." He said he likely will take the filly on to the Bourbonette Breeders' Cup on March 24 on the Lane's End undercard.
-- Last year's Eclipse Award winner, Dreaming of Anna, took the lead in the stretch run of Sunday's $100,000 Gaily Gaily Stakes at Gulfstream Park but couldn't hold it, losing by 1/2 length under the wire to Audacious Choice. Communique finished third. Dreaming of Anna was returning to the turf after suffering her first career loss on the main track in her last outing. Sunday's loss again throws her career path up in the air for trainer Wayne Catalano and owner Frank Calabrese. Audacious Choice, a Kentucky-bred filly by More Than Ready, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm going in 1:41.71. John Velazquez rode for trainer Todd Pletcher.
-- Olivine led essentially all the way to a dominating, 5-lengths victory over Sagamoon in Sunday's $65,000 Busher Stakes at Aqueduct. Bare Dancer was third and the favorite, Margies Smile, finished last of six after stumbling badly at the start. Olivine, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Royal Academy, ran 1 1/16 mile on the fast inner track in 1:44.76. Charles Lopez was up for trainer David "Slam" Donk.
In other weekend racing:
Jambalaya and Honey Ryder both had to deal with traffic problems entering the stretch run in Saturday's $300,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Turf. Jambalaya, blocked at the top of the stretch, went around the traffic while Honey Ryder split rivals. Once free, the two battled to the wire with Jambalaya winning by a neck. Einstein was 1/2 length back in third. Jambalaya, a 5-year-old, Ontario-bred gelding by Langfuhr, ran the 1 3/8 mile on firm turf in 2:12.28 with Javier Castellano aboard. "I had a beautiful trip," said Castellano. "I swung around at the top of the stretch and he had a good kick from there." Trainer Catherine Day Phillips said Jambalaya will return to train in Ocala and run back in the March 31 Pan American at Gulfstream.
In Sunday's $100,000 The Very One Handicap for fillies and mares, Royal Highness came from mid-pack with a quick move on the turn, dueled with Safari Queen until midway down the stretch and drew off to beat that rival by 2 lengths. Barancella was third and Moon Berry fourth. The superfecta horses were bred in Germany, Argentina, France and Brazil, respectively, with Royal Highness a 5-year-old mare by Monsun. She ran the 1 3/8 mile on firm turf in 2:12.63 with Edgar Prado up.
J'ray, the odds-on favorite, performed up to expectations in Saturday's $150,000 Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares. After lagging behind the leaders early and racing three-wide around both turns, the 4-year-old, New York-bred daughter of Distant View kicked into gear entering the stretch and drew off, winning by 4 3/4 lengths over Scarlet Butterfly. Candy Ball finished third. J'ray, with Robby Albarado in the irons for trainer Todd Pletcher, ran the "about" 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:52.44. "She got in a great spot," said Albarado. "She was able to relax in a good position. When I called on her, she overpowered the speed."
Tampa Bay Downs
Hotstuffanthensome stalked the pace early in Saturday's $150,000 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup Stakes, came four-wide around the leaders into the stretch and was just up at the wire, winning by 1/2 length over Classic Campaign. Defer finished third. Hotstuffanthensome, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Awesome Again, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:41.24. Rajiv Maragh had the winning ride. "I know we had a beautiful position -- exactly what we wanted," said Maragh. "He was relaxed. Once we saw daylight, he just exploded."
Hello Lucky, under the youngest member of the Baze riding family, came four-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Las Flores Handicap, caught pace-setting Selvatica and went on to win by 1 length. Babe Hall finished third. Hello Lucky, a second cousin of Russell Baze, rode the 5-year-old, Florida-bred winner over 6 furlongs of fast track in 1:09.34. The mare is by Lucky Lionel. "We broke clean, like usual," said Baze, "but she relaxed much better. I was able to sit right off of Selvatica the whole way. Turning for home, when I asked her, she gave me plenty."
Sunday, Obrigado sat just off the leaders in the $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap, came three-wide into the stretch and got home first in a four-horse blanket finish. One Off was second but disqualified to third for interference in the stretch. That ruling put On the Acorn up to place money. Obrigado, a 4-year-old, French-bred gelding by Enrique, ran 1 1/2 mile on firm turf in 2:27.21. Garrett Gomez rode for trainer Neil Drysdale.
Relato Del Gato got the lead early in Saturday's $100,000 Phoenix Gold Cup and the favorite, Sailors Sunset, couldn't catch him in the stretch. At the wire, Relato Del Gato, despite drifting out a bit in the final sixteenth, was a comfortable 2 3/4 lengths in front. Family Guy ran evenly to take show money. Relato Del Gato, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Tale of the Cat, set a brisk pace en route to finishing 6 furlongs in 1:07.68. Glenn Corbett was aboard.
Capitano rallied from mid-pack to win Saturday's $75,000 Turf Paradise Handicap by a nose over the favorite, Cervelo, who just failed to hold the lead. Night Dash was third. Capitano, a 6-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred son of Belong to Me, got the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.03 under Danny Sorenson.
And in Saturday's $50,000 Sun City Handicap for fillies and mares, Homemaker broke last, trailed for the first 6 furlongs, then had to come six-wide around the field but still got up to win by 1 length over Shadowy Waters. Haka Girl finished third and the odds-on favorite, Big Promise, lived up to her name by finishing fifth. Homemaker, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Afternoon Deelites, ran 1 mile on the firm turf in 1:36.40 with Scott Stevens in the irons.
Lexi Star showed the way in Saturday's $100,000 Maryland Racing Media Handicap, setting a slow pace and drawing off to win easily. At the wire, the 5-year-old, Maryland-bred daughter of Crypto Star was 6 1/4 lengths to the good of It's True Love, with Raging Rapids third. Lexi Star ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.27 with Ryan Fogelsonger in the irons. "It took her a long time to get here," said winning trainer Chris Grove, "because she was a very immature filly. But now that we have Ryan riding her every time, we are making great headway."
Dina spurted to the lead in Saturday's $65,000 Rare Treat Handicap for fillies and mares and was never seriously challenged. At the wire, the 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Dynaformer was 4 1/4 lengths in front, with Daytime Promise second and A Bit of Pressure third. Dina, with Eibar Coa in the irons, ran the 1 1/8 mile on a fast inner track in 1:51.33.
Sir Five Star stalked the early leaders in Saturday's $50,000 Mountain Valley Stakes for 3-year-olds, seized the lead on the turn and left his five rivals behind, winning off by 8 1/2 lengths. Irish Dreamer finished second and The Hitman faded to finish a well-beaten third. Sir Five Star, a Kentucky-bred colt by Five Star Day, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.69 with Justin Shepherd up.
Kranky Karol won a three-way pace duel in Saturday's $50,000 Santa Teresa Handicap for fillies and mares, then drew off to win by 4 lengths over Handlewoman. Water Park finished third. Kranky Karol, a 6-year-old, Colorado-bred mare by Pioneering, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.01 with Jorge Bordieu up.
Somethinaboutlaura was out on the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Foster City Handicap, survived some early pressure and then simply took charge, winning off by 4 1/2 lengths. Sent to the post as the heavy, odd-son favorite, the 5-year-old, Cal-bred daughter of Dance Floor ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:34.93 with Russell Baze in the irons. Gins Majesty finished second and Make a Pass was third.